Saturday, October 27, 2012

Halloween Horror: The Keychopping Edition

This image from ebay auction 271090064838 looks ominous.  I've seen worse.  The often seen polished keys perched merrily on top of a beautiful machine on etsy are a bit much.

In all honesty, this is not a fabulous or particularly rare machine.  However, I've seen plenty of uncommon machines meet the same fate.

The photo below is from another ebay auction that I didn't bother to credit.  This pretty well sums up the supply and demand aspect of key chopping.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Terror of the Violin Master Class

Seventeen years and many thousands of hours of practice and the bow hold can still be improved upon.
So, you want to be a professional violinist?  You have many years of learning ahead and perhaps you will never actually be done.  Welcome to the terror that is the violin master class!

Our oldest daughter is a violinist in her high school chamber orchestra and in the Olathe Youth Symphony.  Her private instructor plays with the Kansas City Symphony in the new and fabulous Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.  Your sincerely non-musical blogger has happily been immersed in a world of music.  As a matter of fact, Hannah is practicing in the living room as I write this.

The Kansas City Symphony is working hard to engage the public.  The master class is a unique way for a large audience to watch accomplished, rising musicians be critiqued by even more accomplished professionals.  Our professional for the day is none other than Vadim Gluzman.

Vadim Gluzman telling Michael Stern and the audience about the history of his bow.  It was used for the debut of one of the pieces played in class, conducted in the mid-1800s.
The story of how Vadim Gluzman came to spend extra time in Kansas City goes back to an early supporter and mentor, Issac Stern. The Kansas City Symphony is blessed to have his son, Michael Stern, as its conductor.  In addition to watching the master at work, we enjoyed hearing a lively discussion between Mr. Gluzman and Mr. Stern about how their musical lives have evolved.

As for the master class, I might have exaggerated slightly about the terror.  Mr. Gluzman was gracious and professional.  Hannah said that the session looked like one of her lessons.  Except for the part about being on a stage... in front of an audience... with one of the best violinists in the world.

No pressure, right?

It works like this:  the young violinist plays and the master follows with a critique on everything from rhythm to technique to presentation.  Many of his tips were related to making the violin sing smoothly as would a vocal artist.

One of the pleasures for the audience was getting to hear the master play an instrument with pedigree:  the 1690 'ex-Leopold' Stradavari.  Words cannot adequately describe the sound this partnership has achieved.

Note the chin rest mark of the violinist or violist.  In theory, this is partially dead tissue from extended blood flow impairment.
 As mentioned in the first caption, the bow hold is something that can always be improved upon.  I think this made Hannah feel better about her bow trials and tribulations.  It is kind of funny that he is tapping an elbow with a bow that is worth as much as a house.

At any level, teaching is about the relationship formed between the teacher and the student.  This particular student has been playing for 17 years.  At this level, four-plus hours of practice a day would not be unusual.  It takes a very strong ego to accept coaching in front of a crowd. 

The master class was followed by a question and answer period.  Hannah has been been playing since fifth grade and started to develop the permanent violinists' "hickey" where the chin rest hits back in seventh grade.  One of the dads in the audience had a daughter that was just starting out and inquired about the spot so prominent among the performers onstage.  He left with a better idea of how much commitment and hours of practice are ahead.

Also during the question and answer period, a member of the audience presented a piece of music retrieved from the National Archives.  The piece was by the composer of one of the student performances.  It was in the composer's hand and otherwise unknown.  Mr. Gulzman and Mr. Stern studied it; the latter commented "This isn't music!  It's torture!".  The former promised to give it a chance.

For an interview from a local TV station, visit

As always, thanks for reading!  In case you are curious, these photos were taken with a Sony NEX-3 outfitted with an adapted Olympus PEN-F 100mm f3.5 lens (circa early 1960s).  Shots are handheld, manual focus, shutter priority with manual exposure adjustment by the brightness histogram.  My Canon 60D is too conspicuous and the shutter is too loud for this kind of session.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

We Obviously Need More Fountain Pens

After viewing a Master Class at the Kauffman Center, MEK, the nerdlings and I dropped by the Pen Place at Crown Center in downtown Kansas City.  Yeah, that was probably a mistake.  But we came for ink and we left with ink.  Except for the Retro 51 glow-in-the-dark robot roller pen I picked up.  I'm a sucker for robots.

Anyway, here are some examples of the temptations of Pen Place.

How about an entire wall of ink?

I have also been known to get into total guy mode.  These Porsche pens are overstated, but I'm still in like with them.

As with watches, selling nice pens is all about the presentation.

Enter if you dare.  Pen Place is waiting for you.

Here is the new Retro 1951 pen.  It isn't a fountain pen, but it is heavy and rolls well.  It glows in the dark and is probably radioactive.  Did I already mention that I am a sucker for robots?  The notes are from a talk at TEDxKC 2012 and are the subject of recently released book on the subject of the half life of facts.  I recommend the talk and the book is getting solid reviews.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Green Machines: A Royal Signet and Portable of 1932

It occurred to me that I have never shown our Depression era Royal Signet.  This machine stands in stark contrast to its more expensive sibling, the Royal Portable.

We like the Signet quite a bit.  It is light enough for MEK to carry and has a style of its own.  I love the gold keys and the clean symmetry of the stripped down keyboard.

I outbid a key chopper on ebay to get this machine.  It had been used by at least two generations in a family and came clean and well kept.  I love it when a typewriter has spent its entire life in living areas.  No basement funk!

You may have read elsewhere that the Signet is very basic.  Take a look at the margin setting system and you will find out what "basic" means.  Example:  the back of the paper table and space bar are not painted.

Not much to see here.  However, it seems elegant compared to the long spring that runs the carriage on a stripped Olympia from the same era.

These 1932 Royals have one thing in common besides the family name:  sans serif typefaces.  Keylime sports the optional Vogue typeface.  The Signet is equipped with a specially designed italic typeface in caps only.  The latter is quite good for typing on aluminum foil sandwiched between sheets of paper.  Who needs a shift mechanism, anyway?

Thanks to Ted at, I finally have an original ad that shows both machines.  The Signet is the result of some dramatic cost cutting with an original price of $23.50 as compared to $45.00 for the Portable.  I've never seen any information on the topic of the price of Vogue as an option.  Did it cost more?  Who knows.  They still appear to be scarce.  Adjusted for inflation, $45 in 1932 would have the value of $750 today.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting our green Royals.  They have been enjoying a long turn outside their cases.  Before you leave, be sure to pull up a seat and have a slice of Keylime's pie!

Yes, the pie MEK picked up from Sweet Perfection Bakery was far better than that sorry pun.  Rumor has it that the proprietor's son is sweet on the gingercat.
Yet another word about the dread COPYRIGHT:  The images and words on this blog (minus the ad borrowed from Ted) are the sole intellectual property of Dwayne F.  Use must be attributed and no commercial use is allowed without express written permission.  Yeah, these photos aren't that special.  They should be easy enough for you to take after you bake a keylime pie from scratch.  I won't bother with repeating the vague threats involving mutant, flying Oliver 99 typewriters doling out revenge on copyright infringers.  No, that would be immature.  However, I feel it necessary to remind the reader that the official mascot of the Typosphere is the mighty Rhino.  We haz us a bigun, and I ain't sure whether the copyright theft induced rage can be put back in the bottle of mean that is our typing companion.

Fresh from the backyard studio!  More to come on this wild beast in the month of October...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Triumph NORM-6 of 1938

My slate workbench is currently occupied by a high school Honors Biology insect project.  The floor will have to make do.

Correction:  I double checked as noted below and determined this machine dates from 1938.

I swoon over chromed paper table logos.

The enamel and brass on this badge show this machine's 74-years of service and storage more than other portions.

The texture on the top section is a giveaway that this portion is plastic.  However, as you look at the other photos, you'll notice how well this color matches the painted metal lower section.
The chrome is thick and beautiful and the edges on the controls are nicely smoothed and polished.

Could any of the German speaking readers comment on the shop key tag?  Notice the Spanish tilde key - kind of funny in line with the German shift lock and margin release.

Correction:  I had been going off memory on the date of production.  According to the Typewriter Serial Number Database, this machine was made in 1938, a year after the Hindenburg explosion.  The Graf Zeppelin II was still out and about, but the era of the zeppelin was essentially over as the U.S. would not supply Germany with helium.

Thanks for reading this typecast!  This typewriter is a joy to write on, but takes a little practice and a subtle hand given the hard platen.  It is snappy and light to the touch on par with a well tuned Torpedo 18.

UPDATE:  To read more about the history of Triumph typewriters and similar models, visit:

It is interesting to note that the Triumph Durabel on Shordzi's blog resembles my NORM-6 more than the NORM-6 shown on Machines of Loving Grace.  Much gets lost in the history of relatively obscure machines.  It does not deserve obscurity as it is a wonderful machine.

If you are curious about the cards I typed on, visit the first entry on the topic at